How a Berlin violinist from Yorkshire experienced Brexit through his music | To concentrate
Home is one of those words in the English language that has several meanings and uses. It can mean the physical place you reside in or where you think you came from. Many other languages use different words for these definitions. In English, we just use “home”.
Moving to Berlin in 2015 – just before the UK decided to leave the EU – to explore and redefine my relationship with music with the violin led to a stimulating and rewarding discovery experience.
2015 marked a new chapter in the search for my own relationship with music, which, since my childhood, has been the determining factor in my life. After graduating from the Birmingham Conservatory, I found myself playing across the EU with projects based in Berlin. Like many, I fell in love with the city and decided to settle here to embrace artistic culture and the opportunity to redefine myself and the music I make.
After gaining some experience of the work and the communities I was exposed to, I began to explore new ways of working with the violin to create the sounds I had in my head. In 2018 I started writing new music and decided to focus on using the violin as the source of all my new compositions. I wanted to use my experiences and technology in the studio to explore how I could affect and change the sounds produced by the violin, and create tracks that came solely from those sounds.
The UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016 marked the start of a new period of uncertainty for UK citizens residing on the continent. While in fact nothing has changed in terms of rights or the ability to live our life the way we did, the constant political turmoil and change in attitude towards the British process has had a profound effect. . Being British was now synonymous with Brexit – a situation comparable to that of the United States, where a certain political figure exerted a huge influence on the narrative of being American.
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On the evening of January 31, 2020, I attended a performance by the German-Anglo-German theater group ‘Gobsquad’ of their play ‘I love you, Goodbye’. In it, the artists presented and prepared a meal of their choice that reflected and represented their “home”. It’s a fascinating and enlightening performance that comments on who we are and how our similarities lie in our differences. It was only after this evening that the weight of Brexit really hit. I realized that a strong sense of solidarity, unity and inclusion within the European community is a big part of my identity. This has now been directly contested.
By this time, the production process for my album was drawing to a close and I was starting to jump into the next chapter to decide how to present this music to the world. I had deliberately neglected this in making the record because I wanted to produce something that was generated from within, rather than being influenced by the outside world.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt that my own relationship with Britain, with the country I called home had been hijacked. Through conversations with colleagues and friends, I realized how ‘British’ music was and how passionate I felt about not wanting to hide it. I was ashamed of Brexit, but didn’t want to be ashamed of being British. So I chose to look to the UK for inspiration from the names and general artistic direction. The Yorkshire landscapes I grew up with and the patchwork countryside became a central influence on this collection of pieces, which is why I called it ‘Vale’.
Artistic expression and identity are written on the same pages of the book of human experience. In this increasingly difficult time, when some in society seem to insist on building and highlighting the borders and the differences that divide us, through art we can present our own version of the world, where the difference is celebrated and defended, just like the patchwork. campaign that defines and characterizes Britain so well.
Simon Goff is a Yorkshire violinist who made a name for himself in Berlin, as a collaborator of musicians such as Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Dustin O’Halloran and Yair Elazar Glotman. With Guðnadóttir more specifically, he worked on the soundtracks of Chernobyl and Joker.
His new album, Valley, released on April 23, 2021.
To watch a single from the album, click below